Growing up as the son of a pediatric nurse and a physician who also was the dean of admissions for a medical school, John T. Sullivan could have become fatigued with his overexposure to the medical field. Instead, osmosis worked its magic and he realized medicine was his destiny too.
“I never thought of anything else,” he says of his career. Sullivan is the new senior vice president and chief medical officer of St. Clair Hospital, Bower Hill Road. He replaces G. Alan Yeasted, who held that position for 17 years. Yeasted is now senior vice president and CMO emeritus and he continues to treat patients at St. Clair.
A native of Detroit whose most recent position was associate chief medical officer for academic affairs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Sullivan is an anesthesiologist who will see patients 20 percent of his time. Sullivan also is a commander in the Naval Reserve and has served stateside as a Navy doctor with the Marine Corps. He is immediate past president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology.
“Dr. Sullivan is extremely well qualified to be the chief medical officer at St. Clair Hospital,” Yeasted says. “He has the expertise, the experience and academic background to continue the high quality medical care for which St. Clair Hospital is recognized.”
He earned his medical degree at the University of Michigan Medical School and completed a residency in anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School). He holds an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Last year, he was headhunted about a position in hospital administration in Pittsburgh and his immediate question was, UPMC or AHN? His curiosity was piqued when the answer was “neither.” He was impressed when he met hospital President and Chief Executive Officer James M. Collins, whom Sullivan calls “extraordinary … he thinks so far ahead.” He also was pleased to see St. Clair is affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. But “What really got me is they have the highest quality scores and the lowest costs in the region,” Sullivan says, noting those two assets don’t usually go together.
Since he began in January (he is housesitting in the city for a Carnegie Mellon University professor on sabbatical). He has explored all of the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and says the buzz of our city is palpable. “There is optimism that comes with a degree of growth in the tech sector,” he says. “That really caught my attention.”
Sullivan is responsible for the management of the medical staff, including 600 physicians, some of whom are employed by the hospital and others who are in private practice. He is supervises of program development, quality and safety systems, talent recruitment and management of the relationships between specialties.
Sullivan is focusing on is upgrading St. Clair’s stroke care. Given that St. Clair has expanded and honed its expertise in helping heart attack patients over the last several years, stroke care is a logical step. “If you can get it treated five minutes from home instead of 25 minutes from home, that might have better outcomes,” he says.
He is driven to continually increase quality to give patients the best healthcare to “move closer to defect-free services,” Sullivan says.
He has been impressed with “how senior and skilled the nursing team is at St. Clair,” and how that has led directly to increased patient satisfaction.
His transition hasn’t been without its challenges. It’s been an adjustment coming from a huge, academic-centered hospital system to a smaller, community setting. Yet, that smallness has its advantages too, he says, noting “You see everyone more frequently. I’ve found it extremely exciting.”
“We’re very excited to have recruited Dr. Sullivan to St. Clair,” Collins says. “He has a great background, he’s deeply interested in our community and I have no doubt he will further elevate St. Clair among the nation’s leaders.”